Stand-up comedian, actor, activist and now-athlete Eddie Izzard recently ran 27 marathons in 27 days. The effort benefited Sport Relief, an international charitable organization that raises money to improve the lives of people in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Highlights From Bill's Conversation With Eddie Izzard
On March 20th, you completed the 27th marathon you’d run in 27 days. As I say it, do you find it hard to believe?
EI: Well, particularly the last day, because on Day Five I had to go to the hospital to get my kidneys checked out, so on Day 27 I ran my 26th and my 27th marathon, double-marathon on the last day, so that was the toughest day of my life.
BL: You’re in London now, but I understand you did all this running in South Africa, so, no worries about the heat, obviously.
EI: Day 2 I went into 41 degrees centigrade which must be, I don't know, 105 degrees Fahrenheit? It's right up there. My body was saying to me, 'Stop it! It's ridiculous. What are you doing?' But by the end, on the last day, I was running at 35 degrees, maybe around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was dealing with it quite well.
I'm just going to try and do what I can to live this life to the full.Eddie Izzard
BL: Why was 27 the appropriate number? Tell me a little bit about that.
EI: Well, it was South Africa. It's a salute to Nelson Mandela. He spent 27 years of his life in prison, so I thought, "OK, 27 years, I'll do 27 marathons in 27 days." I've done some marathons before, but I said, that's going to be my next mission. I tried in 2012 and I got rhabdomyolysis. And if you look that up it's a horrible disease where your muscles shred into your blood stream and you drop dead. So I came back in 2016 and finally got it done last Sunday, so I'm very happy.
BL: You visited Nelson Mandela’s cell, as I understand it, and various other places significant to him. Describe what that visit was like.
EI: Well, in his cell, they let me lie down on the bed where he lay. And I'm about 5-foot-7. He was about 6-foot, over 6-foot, maybe 6-foot-two, maybe. So he would've taken up the whole side of this small cell. And he was there for 18 years out of the 27, so it's impossible to imagine what that would be like. It was quite an honor to be there, to be able to look out of the window that he looked out of. I started running from his birthplace in the Eastern Cape, all the way down to Cape Town. I ended up on Sunday on the steps of the Union Building in Pretoria, where he became president, so it was quite a journey.
BL: Back in 2009, you ran 43 marathons in 51 days, another astonishing number, and then there’s the 27 in 27. I suppose it’s too soon to think about what you're going to do next?
EI: It is funny, everyone says, 'What's next?' as if I'm going to be thinking about that right now — 'Why don't you eat a bunch of bananas in under three minutes?'
It's not the challenges, actually. It's the messages behind them which I'm interested in. I am going into politics. In 2020, I'm standing for election. But everything I do has a human, political message behind it. This one was for Nelson Mandela, and the one before I was running with the separate flags of the United Kingdom saying, "We are all different, we are all the same, we are the United Kingdom, we are Africa, we are humanity." There are 7 billion people in the world. We have to be heading toward a world where all 7 billion people have a chance. Otherwise, I don't think we're going to get out of this century.
BL: Well, I'm right with you in that sentiment, without a doubt. You are really a renaissance man: a brilliant comic, obviously an accomplished marathoner and now a career in politics. I hesitate to think they're might be something you wouldn't do?
EI: So, acting was my first love, comedy was my second love. What I do think is we have one life. I'm just going to try and do what I can to live this life to the full, try and put something back. And that will be my life.
This segment aired on March 26, 2016.